|Tonglu Trekkers Hut|
In platform number eleven of Howrah station I was staring at the train helplessly. The tail of Shatabdi express was slowly moving away from me and I knew all the prayers of my wife and Shantanu went in vain. For the first time in my life I missed the train. Immediately after filing the TDR I went to current reservation section but it seemed a conspiracy is going on to spoil our plan, no ticket available.
When plan A failed we opted for the plan B. Took a cab and went straightaway to esplanade, the bus depot. It is never as comfortable as the train journey but at least the bus journey saved our holiday plan. A fourteen hour bumpy ride and we were at the bus stand of Siliguri. It was raining.
18th July, 2015: On our way to TumlingWe took a shared cab for Ghoom occupying the middle seat. Our voyage got delayed as the taxi driver was waiting to fill his quota of ten people. Thanks to the beautiful road of Rohini it was a pleasant journey. We stopped for a while to fill our stomach with some momos and the journey continues to Ghoom.
Reaching Ghoom our first job was to get a cab for Manebhanjan. In this part of world that is no big deal. Thanks to the yearlong presence of tourist in that area cabs are available in numbers. So many people earning their bread as a cab driver and that is one of the preferred occupations for the local people.
After getting into the cab I could hardly see 5 feet in front of us, the visibility level was so low due to cloud formation. We could see the locals wearing warm clothes and we also took out our woolen from the bag. Our journey began with a threat of cloudburst.
Proving our prediction wrong it never rained heavily during the journey to Manebhanjan and only after we took shelter in a hotel the downpour started. We didn’t have a plan to stay in Manebhanjan though. That was a temporary break just to do the lunch and meet the monster. The monster was standing just outside our hotel ignoring the heavy rain, waiting for its next destination. The 70 year old LAND ROVER, was no less than a monster.
Another journey and the last one for the day begins with Pasang, the very able driver of that land rover. At the very beginning of the ascend we had to stop. Another land rover was having some problem and Pasang went there to help the troubled driver. We were not really unhappy with the break and had a walk through the pine trees until the cumulative effort of Pasang and other driver brought the land rover on track.
We took our next break near Chitrey, a small village. By that time the sky was little clear and we could see Darjeeling from there. Something serene about that place attracted us and we spent some good time there taking photos and strolling. Later we revealed that it is a cremation center that falls in the trek route of Sandakphu.
After this point the actual journey begins and there is hardly any road beyond this point. It is more like off-roading and the monster was making it’s way over the paved boulders what they call road. The roller-coaster ride continues still Lamedhura where we had a tea break and a chance to check if our organs changed position. By that time we lost track of time. The wrist watch seemed to be one of the most useless things on earth and the journey continues.
When we reached Tumling, it was already night. It is a small hamlet situated actually in Nepal and not many accommodations are available there. We went to Shikhar Lodge directly. It was a cold night, no way to guess that it is mid of April. I was surprised to see tap water available in the lodge. The lodge is more like a halt point for the Sandakphu trekkers and we were not expecting anything luxurious. Not specious but clean rooms and a clean toilet – it provided what we were looking for. They served the dinner quickly, mix of Chapaties and Rice with egg curry. I wouldn’t say that it is the best dinner I ever had in a home-stay or trekkers hut but good enough. Just after having the dinner we went to bed with another round of prayer offered to the weather gods / goddesses.
19th July, 2015: And the weather god granted ...It was early in the morning ... so early that I consider that time as night but not when I am in Himalaya. the golden hour is something that I don't want to miss. the first ray was yet to be there, I just moved the curtain a little bit and had a glance from the glass window. Sleeping Buddha was smiling ... the Kanchenjunga family so close as if could touch them. Without delaying much I went out to find two guardians, waiting outside to greet me, two full grown Tibetian Mustangs.